Courtesy of Jil Sander

The Husband and Wife Team Taking on Jil Sander’s Legacy

Alexander Fury talks to Luke and Lucie Meier, the designers at the helm of a brand that’s not just about fashion, but an approach to life

Lead ImageCourtesy of Jil Sander

Luke and Lucie Meier are the husband and wife team behind the mens- and womenswear, respectively, of the house of Jil Sander. Hamburg-founded but now Milan-based, the name has been synonymous with a distinct breed of Minimalism since the 1990s – uncompromising, precise, covetable. It’s quite a legacy to inherit: asked of her first memories of the label, Lucie Meier cites her Austrian mother’s wardrobe. “Her closet, the fragrance she wore, and the cosmetics she used. It represented her total lifestyle,” she says. “I feel like it has been part of my upbringing in a way.” Indeed, Sander’s central place in the lifestyle of many women in the 1980s and 90s has been much mythologised, and built the brand to a behemoth by the end of the decade, when it was purchased by the Prada Group (it is now owned by Japanese company Onward Holdings and the Italian Gibo SpA). “It’s not about fashion,” comments Luke Meier, of Jil Sander. “It’s about an approach to life.”

The Meiers’ sophomore Jil Sander show takes place on Saturday evening, but their debut in September, for S/S18, set the scene, and the stage – they chose the Fiera di Milano, one of the last projects devised by Zaha Hadid, as the setting for their catwalk show. “We wanted to really touch the people with this collection. We wanted to make them feel something,” says Lucie. “An injection of soul was the most important idea.” There was a strange visual echo of that in the setting – the Fiera sports a vast oculus, open to the sky, and the show was staged at sunset, the light gradually changing and diffusing as the intermingled male and female models passed by. The designs had a similar marriage of architectural structure and natural flow – Sander’s signature strict white shirts (Lucie: “My favourite piece of clothing”), combined with hand-crafted touches to knits and macramé. “We used the macramé to line the coats, to attract all the attention to the inside of the garment rather than the outside,” states Lucie. “It goes deeper than the surface.”

“There is no real challenge because since we have known each other we have enjoyed a constant exchange about design, art, photography, music, architecture” – Lucie Meier

The Meiers have never worked together before. Lucie worked at Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga before joining Christian Dior as head designer of womenswear under Raf Simons; when Simons left the label, she served as co-head of the studio alongside Serge Ruffieux for five collections. Luke was head designer of Supreme for eight years, before launching menswear luxury label OAMC. “We had spoken for a long time about working together and that it would be an interesting project,” says Luke. “When the chance came, we grabbed it immediately without any hesitation.” Lucie concurs: “Luke and I really love this brand and to be given the opportunity to do something together, at Jil Sander, was the perfect fit.” 

Still… living and working together could, understandably, be a strain. “There is no real challenge because since we have known each other we have enjoyed a constant exchange about design, art, photography, music, architecture,” Lucie says. “It’s quite natural to do this work together because it’s not so different than how we have always been.” Luke agrees, “The reward is that we get to see each other more often! We have both worked in the business for a long time, there were often periods where we would hardly see each other, and it’s nice to finally change that cycle.”

There is, of course, a third person in the relationship: Ms Sander herself, still very much alive, both physically and in terms of influence over the industry. The lines of her clothes can be seen peeking out of many other designers’ collections, and a major exhibition – the first solely devoted to her work – opened at the Museum Agewandte Kunst in Frankfurt in November last year. “We attended the opening,” says Luke. “It was a joy to visit it, particularly with all of the people there who helped to create the brand with Ms Sander.” The duo have also met Sander herself. “Ms Sander is someone we have always respected,” Lucie says. “It was a privilege to meet her. She’s very inspiring, filled with energy and determination. And she has been very encouraging to us, which we appreciate.” “It is inspiring,” says Luke, “to help continue what she has built.”

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